Any pet owner will tell you that their animal is a member of the family. This is true no matter what animal you care for, whether they’re a dog, cat, horse, or pig. But most of us would be surprised to learn just how much marine biologist Dr. David Scheel’s pet octopus (named Heidi) interacts with the family. Heidi is a day octopus and her life growing up with Dr. Scheel and his teenage daughter Laurel is the subject of an episode of PBS’s series Nature.
In Octopus: Making Contact, we follow the family as they bond with Heidi, who lives in an aquarium in Dr. Scheel’s living room. Day octopuses are known for their abilities to camouflage. Incredibly, they can even change the pattern and texture of their skin. One of the most stunning moments of the episode comes when Heidi is filmed while she’s sleeping. While Dr. Scheel narrates her possible dream, we see a rapid succession of changing colors and patterns on Heidi’s skin.
The quick changes in camouflage are akin to the twitching paws we often see in our cats and dogs while they dream. In listening to Dr. Scheel as he explains the behaviors she might be dreaming about, we understand more about the deep bond between animal and owner. Just as any pet parent has great insight into the behaviors of their dog or cat, so too does the marine biologist with Heidi.
“Octopuses followed a different evolutionary path, making them different from all other intelligent animals on this planet,” says Scheel. “I am less intrigued by the differences and more interested in our similarities. What kind of a connection is possible with an animal that has three hearts and blue blood running through its veins? It’s been a privilege to have a relationship with such a strange and wonderful creature.”
Octopus: Making Contact debuts at 8 pm on October 2, 2019, check your local listings.
Heidi the day octopus changes color in quick succession while sleeping. What is she dreaming?